Morgan was picking berries. She had been hunting with Will, but after she scared off the third or fourth deer, he politely suggested that she try other means of food gathering. Morgan could tell that his usually endless patience was running out, so she went back to camp, asked Djaq to help Will instead, and set off to gather berries. In an attempt to avoid a fiasco like the last time that Morgan had gathered food, Much had insisted that Marian go with her.
"Honestly, if he has something to say, he should just come out and say it!" Marian complained, holding the basket as Morgan threw berries in. She checked to make sure that they were all safe to eat, seeing as Morgan didn't seem to be thinking about it. Morgan nodded her agreement with Marian's statement.
"It's some sort of stupid man-thing, I think. 'Oh, I'll not bother you with how I feel; I'll just say vague, ridiculous things and hope you can get the truth out of it,'" she had dropped her voice, doing an impression of a man. Marian laughed. Morgan glanced over her shoulder, appreciating Marian's laughter.
"Not being funny, Marian. I don't know Robin half as well as everyone else, but I grew up with all boys. It's a matter of pride."
"Pride? You've got to be kidding!" Marian exclaimed, gesturing wildly, sending some of the berries flying out of the basket. "Sorry," she grumbled. Morgan laughed.
"Not a problem. We're in the woods. It's not like we'll run out of berries," she excused. There was a moment of silence before Marian spoke again.
"Morgan, do you have dreams?" Morgan thought about it.
"I have nightmares," she answered finally. Marian had, of course, been referring to aspirations and goals, but she was intrigued by Morgan's simple answer.
"What sort of nightmares?" she asked, throwing out a handful of berries that weren't fit for consumption.
"I'm running through a field, and I meet someone by a tree. They tell me to prepare for the flood. Next thing I know, they rabbit off with the tree, and there's water up to me waist. Sometimes, someone pulls me into a boat. Sometimes, I drown." Marian stared, both surprised by the ease of Morgan's confession and confused by the description of her nightmare.
"Why don't you swim?" she asked.
"Don't know how," was Morgan's flat response. "I think we've got a visitor." In the distance, she could hear something that sounded like a bell. She supposed that it was the trap that Will had conjured up. They hid the berries in the bush and dashed off to the trap, finding that the rest of the group was already there. Despite the fact that he was stuck in a trap, the man that dangled several feet in the air seemed calm, smiling widely.
"Sorry, though. I haven't anything of use. Me sword and some food. That's it," he was explaining. Robin let the man down, his usual bravado absent from his tone. Morgan stood on her tiptoes, trying to see past the tightly formed circle that surrounded their guest. She couldn't see, but she knew the voice.
"Robin of Locksley! Much! I thought I recognized you!" he was saying. Morgan squeezed past the group, flinging herself onto the newcomer.
"Michael!" she laughed with pure glee, hugging him tightly.
"Morgan!" It was surreal. She hadn't seen her brother for so long that she was beginning to think that his embrace was only a part of her dreams.
"Good to see that you've made it back safe, Michael," Robin smiled, clapping him on the shoulder. "What brings you home?" Michael was a member of the King's personal guard; he wouldn't return without good reason. Michael looked up at Robin, glancing around the gang, the look in his eyes one of apprehension. Robin understood.
"Morgan, would you mind if I talked to your brother alone?" he asked, tapping the girl on the shoulder. Morgan released her brother, nodding and allowing Robin to lead Michael away from the group.
"Robin, I've come with a message from King Richard," Michael whispered. "He wants me to tell you that he suspects treason. He wants you to be ready for his return, though he can't be sure when that will be." Robin furrowed his brow.
"But I've heard that he was doing well in the Holy Land, lined up to march on Jerusalem," Robin muttered. Michael shook his head.
"Robin, the king has been captured." The flat admittance hit Robin like a blow to the face. He stared at Michael, almost cursing his blunt nature, his stare prompting him to continue.
"Before Christmas last. We were in Vienna, traveling as peasants. He sent me to secure out route, so I'm not sure what happened. Something about wearing a fancy ring, or wanting chicken. I can't say for certain. Either way, Leopold of Austria took him," Michael explained. Perhaps he saw the look of absolute hopelessness of Robin's face. Perhaps it was just part of his uncompromisingly honest nature. Whatever the reason, he pressed forward again.
"The King's mother is raising funds for his return, but Prince John is raising funds to keep him in captivity. The King suspected his brother's treachery, and he wanted me to come and find out how far this corruption went. Find out who was working against him."
"The Black Knights," Robin answered. Michael frowned.
"The Black Knights," Robin repeated. "An alliance led by the Sheriff of Nottingham. They want to meet the King when he arrives on English soil and kill him. We've managed to get a hold of their traitor's charter, proof of their treason." Michael took this information in, rubbing at his chin.
"Morgan has told me about her encounter with Gisborne in the Holy Land. He will also be done for treason," Robin put a hand on Michael's shoulder. Instead of the relieved reaction he had expected, Michael blanched.
"Robin, I must speak to Guy," he decided. Robin kept his hand on his shoulder, stopping him from walking away.
"Are you mad? What will you say to him? If he finds out that you know he was in the Holy Lands, he will kill you!" Robin cautioned. Michael picked Robin's hand from his shoulder.
"Maybe," he replied flatly, "but I can not turn my back on him. He is like a brother to me."
"I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but he used Morgan as bait for a dangerous trap. Why do you think she's living in the woods?" He asked. Michael glanced back at the distant group, settling on his sister, who was peeking eagerly over at them.
"No, you're not, Robin," he almost smiled. "You are glad to be able to disillusion me. Look, I don't expect you to understand, but I have to talk to him. Where you see only blackness, I see reason. I will speak to Morgan, then I will go to the castle." He wasn't asking, but telling.
A part of Robin admired Michael's forwardness. He was the same way to anyone, regardless of their rank or upbringing. He'd even spoken bluntly to King Richard before. Robin suspected that if the King hadn't laughed at the man's audacity, Michael would've been executed. Still, he was aggravated by Michael's stubbornness. Even so, he knew that there was no talking Michael out of his decision.
He knew that Michael was not looking for his consent, but he nodded anyway.
"I hope you know what you're doing, Michael."
"Morgan, do you understand?" he asked, leaning against a tree, watching even the slightest of her movements. Morgan nodded slowly.
"I do, Michael, but, please, be careful. I've a bad feeling about this," she cautioned. "Guy is not himself. And me nightmares…" her voice dropped off. Michael embraced her.
"I know that Guy is not himself. That's why I have to go see him. As for your nightmares, they are merely nightmares. You're probably only having them because you can hear the stream at night. That explains all that talk of flooding," he reasoned, calmly stroking his sister's hair. He felt her nod, but the tension in her muscles served as a sign that she was not relaxed.
"Michael, what if it was a sign?" she asked quietly, revealing just how much thought she'd put into her dream. Michael stepped back, bending slightly to look her in the eyes.
"You listen to me, Morgan Elizabeth Weaver. There isn't going to be a flood. If it means anything, it probably means that you should face your fears. Now, I need to go see Guy. I'll be back," he promised.
"Guy will be at Locksley at this hour," she whispered, giving Michael her support with this simple fact. They hugged once more, and Morgan watched as her brother stole away towards Locksley.
"Be safe," she muttered again, waiting until her brother had gotten out of sight before returning to the group.
Allan had just flopped down onto his bed, kicking his boots off, when a surprised cry erupted from outside. Recognizing the voice as Guy's he scrambled out of bed, slipping his feet back into his boots and rushing out of his cottage. Guy was embracing someone. The someone was wearing a crusader's uniform, and from his angle, Allan could only see the messy crop of black hair on the man's head.
There was something in Guy that Allan had never seen before. He was hugging the crusader in a brotherly fashion, and the expression on his face was… well, there was no way around it, Guy of Gisborne was happy. Allan raised an eyebrow, wondering just who this Crusader was. Guy spotted him and beckoned him over.
"Allan, tell Thornton to prepare wine and food," he instructed, breaking away from the brotherly hug. The Crusader turned, a smile on his face. Allan nearly lost it, but nodded, heading to the main house, alerting Thornton to Guy's wishes. Allan ran his fingers through his hair. What was Michael doing in Locksley?
That wasn't the right question, he reflected. He knew that Guy and Michael were close friends, Morgan had told him on many occasions. The question that he really wanted answered was 'why is he in England at all?' Morgan was proud of the fact that Michael was a member of the King's personal guard. So, if Michael was in England, where was the King?
Soon enough, there was an admirable spread on the table. Guy led his friend inside.
"You must be hungry," Guy gestured towards the table, offering the food to Michael. Michael grinned, sitting down without shame and grabbing a loaf of bread. He tore off a piece, offering it to Guy, who shook his head.
"No, I've eaten. Tell me about the Holy Lands. Are you unscathed?" he asked, sitting across from the Crusader. Michael swallowed, shaking his head.
"I wish," he began, pausing to drink some wine before launching into his recounting of a fantastic story, no doubt of some battle he'd been in. He pointed to his left ear, which had a nick in it. It was hardly noticeable; Guy wouldn't have seen it had Michael not pointed it out.
"Saracen raid at Acre," he began. Guy felt his stomach turn slightly. He had a pretty good idea of how his friend had received his wound. "I was fighting on the outskirts of camp, trying to stop anymore Saracens from getting in. All of a sudden, this bloke runs up to me in a panic. Good bloke, name of Much. He's always panicky, but this time, he's real pale-like and screaming, so I give a listen. His master had been stabbed. Well, his master happened to be a close friend of mine, so I take off to the King's tent."
Allan, who had been standing back, watched as Gisborne grew more and more uncomfortable. It wasn't obvious, but Allan knew what to look for. He was nervously tapping his fingers on his knee, his eyes shifting more often. Allan kept quite, listening to Michael's story.
"I get there, and this Saracen runs out. Normally, I'd have put an arrow in his throat, but I could see inside, and me friend didn't look so good. In a funny sort of way, I guess you could say that me friend saved the Saracen's life. Anyway, I rush into the tent. The King's fine and all, and he tells me to take care of me friend. So I drag Robin, that's me friend, I drag Robin out of the tent and head for the hospital tent. He's out cold, Robin is, and even with Much guarding him, I'm worried that he'll die before we get to the hospital," Michael took a breath, chewing pensively at a piece of pork.
"I mean, he was bleeding an awful lot. He'd passed out, and even all the noise from the fighting didn't wake him up. Anyway, we get to the hospital, and I start to relax. Out of nowhere, this arrow flies at us. I suppose whoever shot it was aiming at Robin, but I stepped to the side. Good thing that we were at the hospital already, cause the arrow caught me in the ear. Nicked me good. Of course, I didn't think nothing of it. I mean, who dies from a shot in the ear? But Much was in a right state. Shouting about the blood and pointing. I ended up taking a bed right next to Robin. Of course, he was a lot worse off then I was. I was back on me feet the next day." He finished, washing his story down with a bit more wine.
"I told Robin that I'd come visit him when I got back to England, but I hear that he's taken to the woods," he commented, looking to Guy for confirmation. Guy nodded.
"He's an outlaw, a thief. We suspect that war had turned his mind. He's obviously unstable and mad," Gisborne offered mechanically, spewing the Sheriff's story before he realized that he was doing it. He looked past Michael, catching sight of Allan.
"Allan, tell everyone that I am not to be interrupted this evening. Post extra guards outside," he commanded, dismissing the former outlaw. Allan was glad for an excuse to leave. After Michael's story, Gisborne had lost most of the joy from earlier.
Just wanted to note in advance that there will probably be a longer turn-around period for the chapters on this story. Hope you guys enjoy it!